Newsflash

Health - Public Health News

Posted on: September 7, 2023

What to Do if You’ve Been Exposed or Test Positive for COVID-19

We’re seeing an increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations locally and nationwide, but thankfully our numbers remain near the lowest levels in the last three years. Fall is typically when we see an increase in the ‘big three’ respiratory viruses - COVID-19, flu, and RSV. Here are some common-sense guidelines for respiratory viruses in general, and for COVID-19 specifically:

  • Stay home and away from others if you are sick.
  • If you have symptoms, test for COVID-19. 
  • If you test positive for COVID-19 public health guidance is to isolate for the first five days and until symptoms are improving or resolved, then mask on days 6-10. Count from your first positive test or first symptoms. 

 Decision Trees: What to do if you have COVID-19 symptoms, and What to do if you were exposed to COVID-19: https://doh.wa.gov/sites/default/files/2023-02/420456-COVID19DecisionTrees.pdf  

 How to get COVID-19 Tests

Free mail order test programs have ended. You can buy COVID-19 tests at pharmacies and retail stores, or call your primary care provider to arrange for a lab test. The cost will depend on your insurance carrier and coverage. 

 Don't throw out your expired COVID-19 tests without checking to see if the expiration date has been extended. They may still be usable! https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/coronavirus-covid-19-and-medical-devices/home-otc-covid-19-diagnostic-tests#list 

 Should I wear a mask?

High-quality masks like N95 or similar are a great option if you must be around others while you are sick and want to avoid spreading the illness - regardless of whether you have COVID-19 or a different respiratory illness. Masks are also recommended if you’ve been exposed to COVID-19 or are recovering from the virus (details here). Immunocompromised people or others at high risk of severe illness should also consider wearing a mask to reduce their risk of exposure, especially indoors and in crowded settings.

 You can also choose to mask in crowded, poorly ventilated indoor places, or when around someone who is immunocompromised or who is at higher risk of severe disease. Everyone should assess their own personal risk when making a decision around masking.

 We’ll keep monitoring the situation

If Whatcom County COVID-19 hospitalization rates reach medium or high levels, our guidance may change based on State Department of Health or CDC guidelines. Thank you Whatcom County for continuing to do the things we know will slow the spread of these viruses and help protect our most vulnerable! 

 Check out our recent news flash: What to Know About Respiratory Viruses This Fall for more information about other fall respiratory illnesses like RSV and the flu.

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